Everyone loves the idea of automating their business, or even parts of our personal life BUT you can only do that if you know what’s possible. It’s true that when the only tool you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, but what about the reverse? If I don’t have any tools what do I do with all these nails?
Take this note I got from a reader the other day for example,
“My biggest problem right now is I know I’m doing a lot manually and I don’t even know what options are out there to improve this situation”
I totally understand this feeling! I even find myself saying at times that “There has to be a better way!” As you might have guessed I love setting up automation, and learning how to use new tools and in general building a better mousetrap whenever I can. My goal here is to go over some of the best tools and services I’ve found and see if any of them look like the “hammer” you need for the “nails” you have in your business, and in your life.
Now, given the question above, you do need to have a look at my previous article “HOW TO FOCUS ON THE RESULTS, NOT ON TOOLS!” as it’s important to not chase after the shiny and new toys but still, knowing what you have in the toolbox will help you tackle any project! Here are some of my favorite “tools” in my automation toolbox:
- IFTTT.com – Stands for If This, Then That. The core of most of the cool stuff you can automate on the web! For example IF I make an Etsy sale, THEN send me a text. Or every time you get a new follower on twitter add all their details to a Google spreadsheet. Or when I check in at home on Foursquare, turn on my Belkin WeMo Switch. The options are all but limitless and this will be a core part of many articles on this site!
- BufferApp – A simple service really, but oh so powerful! Basically preschedule your tweets to come out throughout the day to get maximum exposure without having to sit at your computer all day! Or, worse to spam your followers twitter feed with a ton of tweets all at once. Doing work when you have time to do it, and being able to spend time with family or on other tasks when needed is a key component to a successful business!
- ManageFlitter – The interface on twitter itself isn’t the best, especially when you start getting a few followers! ManageFlitter easily lets you follow or unfollow or add people to lists on twitter super easy. You can also set up detailed searches or even follow all the followers of someone else. Be careful however, like all automation you need to use it wisely!
- Wappwolf – Dropbox automation! Drop a file into your Dropbox folder and things happen! Save a text file and a PDF version of it is created. Save the MP3 of your podcast to the specified folder in Dropbox and it’s automatically uploaded via FTP to your file host!
- TextExpander / Phrase Express – While not exactly a “service” I had to add it here on the top list because it’s just that important. It’s simple really, but also SO powerful! It text expansion software that runs on your computer. Such a huge time saver! For example I can type ps.com and it’s instantly changed to: www.ProlificSuccess.com or if I type @@ and it types my full email. The guys over at Entrepreneur On Fire have mentioned many times that use it too because, as you might imagine, typing www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com a few times can leave your fingers in knots and even the strongest speller will need to slow down their train of thought. You can even type out full paragraphs or entire email responses or html forms for common things. Just think of all the things you save in various files that you open up just to copy/paste. Make a few keys as a shortcut and BAM it’s pasted in, no need to figure out where you saved it or anything.
- LastPass – Remember Every Password, every time. It’s a password generator, it automatically stores, and auto fills all your passwords for all your sites. These days we all have SO many passwords for so many things, and they are forcing us to make them more and more complex and of course you don’t want to use the same one in any 2 places either! OMG this has changed how I use the web! It even will do a security report and tell you if various sites get hacked (I got notified to change quite a few with the heartbleed incident recently). Lastpass makes even someone with the memory of a fruit fly able to keep up with all their passwords and still stay super secure! Much like the text expander, the idea is to remove the frustrations and streamline, or shall we say automate the pain points in our lives and let us focus on being creative and productive. Seriously, give Lastpass a try you won’t know how you lived without it!
Other useful productivity sites and services:
- Asana.com – Web based Project Management. Great for keeping your team all on the same page and delegating and tracking work but just as good for the solo user! I use it to track all the crazy ideas I have, blog post I’m working on, or really any other project that takes more than 2 minutes to complete.
- Evernote – I love their tagline, “Remember Everything, Evernote apps and products make modern life manageable, by letting you easily collect and find everything that matters.” And while I’m still getting better at it training myself to use it more every day it truly can be your electronic brain if you let it! Free too, give it a go! I’ll have many more articles about this in due time as well!
- Gmail – Who hasn’t heard of this? But seriously, free email account with all but unlimited storage. Set up tags and rules to sort things out and super powerful search of all your email… ever (well it is Google after all). While you are there look into the Google Drive and Google Docs. All vital tools for the entrepreneur today!
- Dropbox – Also love the tagline for these guys, “Your Stuff Anywhere”. So true, it’s like a portable hard drive in the cloud for Free. I use it all the time for so many things. I have rules that automatically download copies of pics i’m tagged in on facebook to dropbox or, since I have the desktop app installed on both of my computers, it makes sharing files even easier than the home network or even a thumbdrive! And hey, if you grab a free account with my link we both get an extra 500 MB of storage!
There you have it! The top 10 tools I use to be successful! Did I miss anything? Or do you have a “tool” that you like better? Let me know in the comments below!